HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - President Barack Obama has announced the resignation of Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary General Eric Shinseki following several tumultuous weeks and pressure from both Democratic and Republican lawmakers.
Members of Hawaii's congressional delegation reacted to Shinseki's resignation on Friday morning.
U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, who served two tours of duty in the Middle East as a member of the Hawaii National Guard, defended Shinseki during a live interview with Hawaii News Now on Friday morning.
"There's no question that General Shinseki is an American hero, a man of integrity and one who took his job at the VA incredibly personally and seriously," Rep. Gabbard said. "The challenges and the symptoms of the issues that we're seeing today within the V.A. are issues that have been there for decades."
Rep. Gabbard also said systemic changes were needed regardless of Secretary Shinseki's future with the Department of Veteran's Affairs.
"The place that we need to focus now, today, is making sure that all of those who are on those waiting lists to receive care, as well as those who unfortunately are not even on a waiting list and are lost in the V.A. beauracracy, are getting the care that they need either from a VA doctor or a doctor in their community," said Rep. Gabbard.
Speaking on Hawaii News Now Sunrise, U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa said that even in resigning, Secretary Shinseki's primary goal was to serve America's military veterans.
"I think he was driven by one thing, and that is 'What is in the best interest of those who served our country so faithfully and loyally,'" said Rep. Hanabusa. "I believe he came to the conclusion that he would be [a] distraction and that he needed everyone, from Congress to the president to the V.A. administration, to work together to remedy the situation."
Senator Brian Schatz issued the following statement:
"General Shinseki is a war hero and public servant who gave everything he had to our country and the job of Secretary of Veterans Affairs. In his judgement, it was time for new leadership to move forward. The problems uncovered are appalling and unacceptable and the VA must deliver accountability for any wrongdoing and systemic changes to ensure this doesn't happen again. I pledge to work with the new Acting Secretary to make sure all veterans get quality and timely care."
Senator Mazie Hirono issued the following statement:
"General Eric Shinseki's patriotism and dedication to this nation is without parallel. I've had a number of opportunities to talk directly with General Shinseki about the challenges facing the VA. I agree with the President's statement that his 'commitment to our veterans is unquestioned.'
"I respect the Secretary's decision to step aside in order to avoid being a distraction. The focus should be on delivering care to our veterans and ensuring the VA has the necessary resources to accomplish that. As I've done all year long, I met with veterans groups in Hawaii this week to discuss their firsthand experiences with the VA. I will take their comments, insights and concerns back to DC to inform my work to address the unacceptable situation that has been uncovered."